Update, 04/20/2022: We’ve added some additional information about eBook file formats, and what that means for the eReaders you may consider buying.
If you’re looking to buy an eReader, you’re probably looking to read more. Of course, you can read books on your tablet or phone, but you’ll want a dedicated eReader if you want to enjoy a good book without distractions, as eReaders generally can’t do much else.
eReaders make picking up a book and reading a lot easier, as you’ll have a whole collection of novels at your fingertips. However, if you’re looking to bring your existing eBook selection over to your new purchase, you need to keep file compatibility in mind.
There are multiple eBook file formats, including EPUB, MOBI, CBR, and the more familiar formats like PDFs. Most eReaders can read most of the file formats, but there are important exceptions to keep in mind. For example, Kindles (the most popular eReader line) cannot natively read EPUB files. They also cannot read CBR or CBZ files, which are common file types for electronic comic books.
On the flipside, Kobo eReaders (a Kindle competitor) cannot read Amazon’s proprietary eBook formats, MOBI and AZW.
The good news is that with a third-party app like Calibre, you can convert any of the files you have to another eBook file type, and load them into the eReader of your choice without issue. Also, if you’re new to eReaders or are not bringing your collection over, then simply buying books from your eReader’s store (like the Kindle Store) and your local library will be more than efficient.
Another thing to keep in mind with eReaders is their E Ink technology. E Ink replicates the look of paper in electronic form, which provides several benefits over a normal LED one. The biggest benefit, aside from dramatically increased battery life, is the lack of glare, which makes reading outside much easier. An eReader’s light tends to be less bright, making for more comfortable dark room reading.
Due to E Ink, eReaders have a great battery life as well, with battery lives of weeks with light use (or days if you’re a heavy reader). Finally, eReaders make great gifts for any book reader, as there isn’t a big technological barrier to start using one.
Now, let’s get into our eReader recommendations.
Best eReader Overall: Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition
- ✓ Waterproof so you can read it near a pool or at a beach
- ✓ 32GB is enough to hold thousands of books
- ✓ Audible compatibility lets you listen to audiobooks with ease
- ✓ Can charge via USB-C
- ✗ You have to pay $20 to remove the lock screen ads
- ✗ No EPUB compatibility
For those looking for the best eReader experience without a huge hit to the wallet, the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition will have everything you want. This 6-8-inch E Ink eReader is easy to slip into any bag, and you can pull it out and enjoy glare-free reading anytime, anywhere. The 300 pixels per inch (PPI) upgrade also makes your text look great.
In addition, the 2021 Paperwhite is waterproof, ensuring that you won’t damage it while reading poolside or at the beach. It’s the perfect companion for any vacation day. Amazon has also finally upgraded this new Kindle to charge via USB-C as well, so there’s no need to carry extra cables for the eReader.
You’ll also get access to all of the books on the extensive Kindle store without the need to worry about eBook compatibility. You can still add files to your Kindle, as well as check out eBooks from your local public library and load them up if you want. Finally, with Audible, it’s easy to go from reading to listening and back again.
If you have EPUB book files, you’ll need to use a program like Calibre to transfer them over to your Kindle as the file type isn’t compatible out of the box, but otherwise, you can load MOBI files, PDFs, and other popular formats right onto the Kindle with minimal fuss.
The Paperwhite Signature Edition is only available in the 32GB model, although there’s still an 8GB Paperwhite. While 32GB may not seem like much storage if you’re used to storage options from tablets or phones, but in reality, eBooks don’t take up much space.
The main downside to the 2021 Paperwhite is a problem with many of Amazon’s tech products. Amazon does put ads in their Kindle line, which can be a point of frustration for some users. These ads are restricted to the lock screen and a small bar at the bottom of the home page, so they will never interrupt your reading experience. However, if you don’t want ads, you’ll have to pay an extra $20 or see if an Amazon customer service representative will remove them for you.
But if ads aren’t a sticking point, the Kindle Signature Edition is the best eReader on the market for almost everyone.
Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition
The new 2021 Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition improves on the previous generation with more storage space, USB-C charging, and an adjustable warm light.
Best Budget eReader: Certified Refurbished Kindle
- ✓ Cost-effective eReader makes for a great entry point
- ✓ Certified Refurbished will work as new
- ✗ Not waterproof
- ✗ 167 ppi doesn't look as great as other Kindles
- ✗ No EPUB compatibility
It can be hard to justify the cost of a dedicated eReader if you’re worried about not using it. In that case, you’ll probably want to go with the cheaper base Kindle model. Better yet, you can save even more with the Certified Refurbished Kindle.
You might be nervous about picking up a refurbished product, but these Kindles are refurbished by Amazon itself and are guaranteed to look and work as new. If they don’t, it’s easy to get a return or replacement.
The base Kindle has a lot of the features you come to expect from the Kindle line, but at a lower price than the Paperwhite or Oasis. In addition, you’ll get 8GB of storage (which can hold hundreds of books), great battery life that will last for weeks, and access to Audible and Kindle Store (although you’ll need to get your EPUB books into the Kindle with third-party apps).
This basic Kindle is missing a few different features, though. First, and most importantly, this Kindle is not waterproof. You can take it into the bath if you like, but if you drop it in the water, the Kindle may not survive.
Also, the base Kindle has a 167 PPI as opposed to Paperwhite’s and Oasis’s 300 PPI, so your pages may not look as great, but it’s ultimately not a big difference unless you’re observant about how your text looks. This is in addition to the Kindle line being ad-supported unless you pay to remove it.
But, at $50 less than the Kindle Paperwhite, a refurbished Kindle is a perfect entry point to the world of eReaders.
Certified Refurbished Kindle
eReaders can be expensive, and if you're looking to dive into eReaders for the first time, you might want to save some money and get a certified refurbished Kindle. These Kindles are refurbished by Amazon themselves and are guaranteed to work and look like new.
Best Kindle eReader: Kindle Oasis
- ✓ Bigger screen perfect for those that need bigger font sizes
- ✓ Side buttons let you flip pages without the need for swiping
- ✓ Warm light lets you adjust brightness for day and night
- ✗ Big step up compared to Paperwhite in price
- ✗ Bigger form factor may make it harder to take anywhere
- ✗ No EPUB compatibility
Do you want the best of the Kindle line? You’ll want to grab the Kindle Oasis. This is the premium eReader in Amazon’s Kindle line, with a price point to match. It’s almost double the price of the Paperwhite with a $250 MSRP, so this is not a beginner’s eReader. For avid eBook readers, though, there’s a lot to love about the Oasis that you can’t get from the cheaper Kindle options.
First, the Oasis has a slightly bigger screen, being seven inches as opposed to the Paperwhite and base model’s six inches. There are also buttons on the side of the Oasis that will let you navigate the Kindle and turn pages without dealing with swiping. These page flip buttons are great if your hands are wet—which, given that the Oasis is also waterproof, could be a genuine possibility!
The Kindle Oasis is also the only Kindle model with an adjustable warm light. The warm light is softer on the eyes and better for when you’re reading your Kindle at night. So if you’re mainly a nighttime reader, you may want to consider the Oasis.
Despite being the premium Kindle model, the Oasis does the same downfalls as the other Kindle models. You’ll still need to charge via Micro-USB, so you can’t use the same charger as, say, most Android devices use.
Also, even though it’s expensive, the $250 version of the Kindle Oasis still has ads on the lock screen and bottom of the home screen. Given the price, it’s more than a little frustrating that you’d need to drop $20 more to remove the ads.
If you want the best Kindle experience, though, you won’t do better than the Kindle Oasis.
The Kindle Oasis does it all. With up to 32GB of storage space, an adjustable warm light, and a water-resistant build, the Oasis covers all the bases you'd want with a premium eReader, and then some.
Best Non-Kindle eReader: Kobo Libra H20
- ✓ Many of the Kindle Oasis' features at a lower price
- ✓ Waterproof for easy reading anywhere
- ✓ Easiest access to local library books via Overdrive
- ✓ Can read EPUB files
- ✗ Can't easily read Kindle books on the device
- ✗ A bit heavier than Kindles, which makes more of a difference than you'd think
While the Kindle is probably the best line of eReaders, it’s understandable if you don’t want to be part of Amazon’s ecosystem. In that case, you’ll want to go with the Kobo line of eReaders, Kindle’s major competitors. The best of these is the Kobo Libra H2O, which goes toe to toe with the Kindle Oasis.
The biggest tick in the Libra H2O’s favor is its price. With the $150 MSRP, that’s $100 less than the Oasis! The Libra H2O also has a lot of the same functions as the Oasis, as well. You get the bigger 7-inch 300 PPI screen, the page turn buttons, and it’s waterproof to boot.
The Libra H2O (and the whole Kobo line) also has a huge advantage over the Kindle line with a built-in Overdrive app. Overdrive is an app most public libraries use to let people check out eBooks, completely free. You can also get these books on Kindle, but it’s a bit obtuse—with Kobo, it’s as easy as setting up the app and opening your eBook.
The ease of the Overdrive app does come at the disadvantage of a less accessible Kindle Store, namely due to the store’s different file format. However, you can use Calibre to get the Kindle books over to your Kobo. In addition, you can read EPUB files without any extra steps, unlike on a Kindle device. If your eBook collection is mostly EPUB, the Kobo will be the better choice for you.
Also, the Kobo Libra H2O is a bit heavier than the Kindle Oasis. Given that the difference is 4 grams, this might sound like a nitpick, but when you’re holding a device up for an extended period of time, such small increments can make a big difference. It’s something to keep in mind when comparing the two devices!
While the Libra H2O is our recommendation for the best, there are other Kobo eReaders to look into! For example, the Kobo Clara HD is another great eReader that’s relatively low-cost and more basic in form and function than the Libra H2O.
Kobo Libra H2O
If you’re set against getting a Kindle, you’ll want to go with Kobo, or more specifically, the Kobo Libra H20. This waterproof eReader has most of the features you expect from an eReader, without requiring you to be on Amazon’s ecosystem.
Best eReader for Kids: Kindle Paperwhite Kids Edition
- ✓ Comes with a year of Amazon Kids+ for kids have plenty to read
- ✓ A two-year warranty helps if you have very young or accident-prone children
- ✓ Parental controls help ensures your child is reading
- ✓ Waterproof
- ✗ It's basically a repackaged Paperwhite in terms of functionality
- ✗ No EPUB compatibility
If you’re looking for your child to read more, a dedicated eReader is probably going to work better than a kid-friendly tablet that has multiple distractions, so you’ll want to grab the Kindle Paperwhite Kids Edition.
In terms of technology, there isn’t much different from the new Paperwhite other than its decreased 8GB storage capacity. But, the somewhat high asking price pays for itself once you dig into what you get with the Kids Edition.
First, you’ll get a nice, kid-friendly case that looks more appealing to kids than the standard Kindle case. You’ll also get a year of Amazon Kids+, which gives you access to several popular children’s books for free. Don’t forget the local library eBook access, either.
Be careful about the file format your children might be getting for required reading, however—is their school offers the EPUB format, you’ll need to use an app like Calibre to convert the files before loading them onto the Kindle.
Parental controls can help you see how often your child is reading and how often they’re doing it while also locking them out of purchases so they don’t accidentally buy something.
Finally, an extended two-year warranty means that if you have a young child and they’re a bit accident-prone, it will be easy to get your Kindle replaced or repaired. A big improvement of the Paperwhite Kids over the older model is that this eReader is now waterproof, so if your child spills their drink on it, you don’t need to worry about it getting damaged.
While you could technically opt for the Paperwhite Signature Edition and get many of the same features, it’s the little things that make the difference when looking for an eReader for the kids.
Kindle Paperwhite Kids
The Paperwhite Kids is a waterproof eReader with built-in parental controls and all of the other features even adults will appreciate.
Best Waterproof eReader: Kindle Oasis
- ✓ Waterproof, so lets you read in the bath or at the beach
- ✓ Side buttons let you flip pages without getting sand on the screen
- ✗ Bigger form factor may make it harder to take anywhere
- ✗ No EPUB compatibility
Have you swiped at an electronic screen with wet hands? It’s not very pleasant. You get water on the screen, your finger doesn’t glide as well, and it isn’t enjoyable. If you’re in a bath or by the pool, there’s a good chance your hands are wet, and dealing with swiping for page-turning can quickly become frustrating if you constantly need to wipe your hands or the screen off.
With the Oasis, you can use the side buttons to flip pages instead, leaving your hands off the screen and letting you read in the bath in peace. If you’re at the beach, that also means you won’t inadvertently swipe sand across the screen, which can scratch it.
Even beyond being the best waterproof eReader, the Oasis is also our pick for the best Kindle eReader. With its adjustable warm light and slightly bigger size, the Oasis is an excellent pick for those that want to read anywhere.
The Kindle Oasis is your best choice to enjoy a good book while relaxing at the beach or in the bath. The Oasis's side buttons allow you to turn pages without touching the screen, ensuring that you don't accidentally get sand on your screen and inadvertently scratch it.
Best eReader with Color Display: PocketBook InkPad Color
- ✓ Kaleido color screen shows over 4,000 colors
- ✓ 7.8-inch screen great for reading comics
- ✓ Support for audiobooks
- ✗ Very expensive
- ✗ Doesn't support a lot of common eBook apps and stores
Color E Ink technology still isn’t mainstream yet. Main eReader lines like Kindle and Kobo don’t have a color eReader in their lineup, so instead, it’s up to PocketBook and its InkPad Color to lead the charge.
The PocketBook InkPad Color uses the new Kaleido screen, which captures 4,096 colors while still looking like a paperback book. The 7.8-inch screen is a bit bigger than the competition too, which makes it easier to read comics (CBR files) and textbooks—generally the books you’d want in color in the first place.
But being on the bleeding edge of technology comes with some pretty significant disadvantages. For one, the InkPad Color is costly, with a $329 MSRP in the US. This puts its price point on par with mid-range tablets but without any tablet functionality.
Also, being a product from Switzerland, the PocketBook InkPad Color doesn’t support many U.S. eBook apps and stores you already use. You can’t read your Kindle Store books without workarounds, and it isn’t easy to get library books on it.
If you want to use your InkPad Color to its full extent, you’ll have to resort to loading in your DRM-free files or going through some hoops to strip DRM from your purchases to load in. It’s a big barrier to use that other eReaders don’t have to deal with.
At this point, if you need color, it might be better to go with a tablet until color E Ink technology becomes more affordable. But if you want color E Ink specifically and you’re willing to deal with the hoops and frustrations of PocketBook, the InkPad Color will be your new favorite device.
PocketBook InkPad Color
Color E Ink technology is still developing, but if you want to read comic books on an eReader, the PocketBook InkPad Color is the best option. The Kaleido color screen will give you vivid colors while still having the advantages of E Ink.
Best Reading Tablet: iPad Mini (2021)
- ✓ Reading mode allows you to read uninterrupted
- ✓ Landscape reading options allows you to read how you want
- ✓ Night Shift Mode lets you read in low light
- ✗ Have to deal with the glare of the LED screen outside
- ✗ An expensive buy if it's primarily for book reading
You may not want to have a device that’s just for reading. eReaders are great, but you can’t really do much with them other than reading, and tablets have the advantage of the proper form factor while allowing you to do more. That’s where the new iPad mini comes in.
There’s a lot of debate between E Ink and LED screens, but at the end of the day, if you’re more likely to pull out a tablet instead of reading on a Kindle, you’ll want to get the tablet.
In terms of form factor, the iPad mini’s small size makes it a perfect replacement for an eReader, since it’ll be easy to pack and take anywhere. On top of that, Apple’s Reading Mode and Night Shift are features built with reading in mind, allowing more options than most eReaders provide for making your reading experience comfortable. That’s not even mentioning being able to read in color.
Of course, going with an LED reading screen has one distinct disadvantage—the glare! E Ink screens are popular for eReaders because they don’t have a glare on the screen when you’re outside, and the iPad mini uses an LED screen.
Also, the cost of an iPad mini, as great of a tablet it is, is significantly more expensive than most eReaders on the market. This makes sense, as it does more than just read books, but if color content doesn’t matter to you and you will primarily be reading books, you might want to reconsider.
If you want a tablet that also gives you a great reading experience overall, however, you won’t be disappointed with the iPad mini. If size (and price) isn’t a concern, there are some other great iPads to consider, too.
If you want a good book reader that allows you to multitask, you can't beat the iPad mini. The size makes it easy to carry around and read books wherever you are like an eReader, and the Liquid Retina screen makes reading easy on the eyes.
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